Monday, August 13, 2012

U: Upholstery Tutorial

About a year and a half ago my first roommate, Hope, and I bought an old avocado colored, velvety chair for $10 at a garage sale benefiting our club, the UNT chapter of Invisible Children. If you haven't heard of it, and I can't imagine that you haven't to be honest, here's more information.

Anyway, we kept this chair in our dorm room, dubbing it the "green granny chair" and it was beloved by all, except my current roommate's parents and my own parents of course. I have no idea how old it was, but the girl we bought it from said it was her family's or grandparent's chair. And it could easily be anywhere from 10-30 years old.

My roommate and I, after failing to find a suitable slipcover, decided that we could just reupholster it, and as I'd never done that before, I was excited to try! My mom and I are both good sewers and are creative and decided to tackle it.

The fabric used is Amy Butler Daisy Chain Deco Rose Navy and I purchased it from through Amazon. I bought 5 yards and it came out perfectly.

Below, I'm going to walk you through how this:


In order to get the some odd 500 or so staples out of the chair to get the fabric off, we used a pair of pliers, needlenose pliers, flat head screwdriver, and staple remover.

The first step was to rip all of the fabric off the chair. We started with the bottom flap around the chair since it was the easiest logical thing to do. At this point, we could see how disgusting this chair really was. The color had changed so incredibly from chartreuse to old rotting gold avocado.

Next, we ripped off the outsides of the arm rests which were attached to the back panel of the chair. These were starting to rip off anyway, so it was definitely time for them to go. Now if I were REALLY going to upholster, I would've learned what those metal chain brackets were called that held the outside panel onto the chair, but I didn't really care enough, and didn't plan on using them when I recovered the chair, but I would definitely recommend doing so if you decide to upholster. The off white bits shown in the pictures below are muslin (covering the back sides of the chair) and a layer of batting (fluffy pillow material).

 My mom was a HUGE help on this project. I almost lost it a few times, but she kept me sane!

There's the back. Those little strings and puffs that look like awkward cotton balls are the tufted buttons that look pretty on the front, and like this on the back! You can also see those awkward metal bracket things too!
Most of the fabric removal was just ripping out staples to strip it down to the wooden frame of the chair.
The flap covering the bottom front of the chair where the seat cushion goes, was sewed onto the seat base so that when the separate seat cushion sits on top, you can't see any of the chair base that you see below.
As you see below, the front two panels were just folded under and tucked next to eachother on the front, and staped on the back.

This is the chair frame once it was stripped of the layer of fabric, batting, and foam padding. I completely trashed the batting and foam that was there before. It was nasty and old. I bought about 6 yards of medium thickness batting from Joann Fabric & Craft Stores. This can get kind of expensive, but I had coupons! used the batting and pillow fluff from some old unused pillows and actually used an old tempurpedic pillow on the back for lumbar support, as you can see below.

We saved the old pieces of fabric to use as estimates to create a pattern for the new fabric pieces. Lay it out on pattern paper (similar in thickness to parchment paper) and cut to match the size, then lay these out on the new fabric to cut the pieces to size.

At this point, my tutorial may or may not help much, as each chair is different, but hopefully it will kind of give you a better idea to get you started!

The first piece I attached to the new chair was the front bottom base. I stapled the fabric on the wrong side to the base of the chair seat, so that the staples were underneath and remain unseen. Scroll up four pictures and you'll see what I mean.

Next, I attached the seatback fabric (where the tufted buttons are). I pulled the bottom of the fabric through the whole in the frame where the seat meets the back and stapled it from behind. Then I pulled the top of the fabric to the back and stapled, then the sides.

Tufting buttons: This tutorial will teach you how to use a button kit to make custom buttons (kits can be purchased so that the last two steps are unnecessary and they come with the button loop bottom, and this tutorial will tell you how to tuft! I recommend using a really long thick needle and thick thread, otherwise it may not hold well. Before tying off  the ends, thread the needle through a cotton ball or piece of fluffy batting so to help keep the knot from slipping through the fabric and losing the tuft of the fabric being pulled back by the button.

It's a bit difficult to see the buttons here but if you look closely enough, you can see them!

After that, I attached the inner sides of the arm, stapling at the bottom on the outer edge of the frame, like with the back piece, and letting it fall over the top and staple onto the outside. All that extra white batting that is still visible in the picture below had to be cut off for the fabric to reach around to where it could be stapled.

I pinned the back of the seatback piece on just to envision it and noticed that the corners where the arm rest meets the back were not going to reach. So I cut out two little triangle pieces of fabric and sewed them onto the edges of the back and inner armrest to close the gap.
Next came piping. For those of you who don't know what piping is, here is a great tutorial on what it it and how to make it! I believe I bought about 4 yards of cord for lining the outer back edge of the chair and the cushion. A trick my mom learned, if you are out of cord, take a few strands of yarn and use in place of the cord. It's not quite as thick or solid, but it still looks fine!
After stapling down the piping as close to the edge of the seam as possible, wherever I could actually hit wood, I went back with a needle and thread and hand sewed any parts that were flapping out too much or wouldn't let me staple through all the batting! Rather than trying to do long stiches on the seam allowance, simple, stick your needle back and forth through the piping to the other side and back. It's much easier and faster.

Attaching the back panel and the two arm rest side panels was a bit of a nightmare. It get's really tight and impossible to fit a staple gun between the chair and the underside of the fabric once you've gotten the top down. I tried staples, small nails, and eventually just ended up sewing most of the panels on and reinforcing where I nailed the fabric onto the frame. I didn't take pictures of this part because it was pissing me off so much.

And I didn't take pictures of the cushion because my mom did that, but if you need some help, look no further!

The last thing you should do is staple down all of the bottom ends of the fabric panels on the underside of the chair. So flip it over, and hold them down!

If I can do it, SO CAN YOU! So next time your grandmother or mother wants to throw out an old tacky chair, strip it down and re-cover it!

There were a few sources that helped immensely with this project. I would have been entirely lost without their guidance:

This site gives you an estimate of how much fabric you would need to cover a chair/sofa/couch of each size shown. It's pretty close. My chair was estimated at 6 yds and I did it with 5, but better to be safe than sorry!
This blog post is also about reupholstering chairs and is super helpful!

This post is also entered into Chef In Training's Tuesday Talent Show #49! There are lots of excellent recipes, crafts, and tutorials there, so check it out!